|System: PSP||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Pyramid / Interlink||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: SONY||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: May 5, 2009||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-4||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Nathan Meunier
Just when you thought you'd safely exorcised the child-like, rhythmic chanting of pata-pata-pata-pon from your brain, it's about time to rekindle that endearing mantra once again. In early 2008, the delightfully quirky Patapon proved war could be a cute and musical affair. The rhythm game quickly rocketed to the top of many players' must-have piles for the year. With its sequel now upon us, there's no excuse not to dust off and recharge your PSP.
It's true; at a quick glance Patapon 2 looks and plays very much like its predecessor. Fans of the original may be wondering whether the changes are substantive enough to warrant dropping another $20 for a second helping. Rest assured; the deeper you dig into this new adventure the more the numerous improvements become apparent. The developer clearly took many suggestions and concerns to heart in its approach to making this follow-up an even greater game. It's safe to say almost all of the tweaks to the core design are largely for the better, and the additional elements woven into the mix are a strong fit. Needless to say, anyone who found Patapon maddeningly addictive the first time around will find it hard to keep away from the sequel. It's so good that doing so would be a crime.
Amassing diverse armies of the game's titular little Cyclops-creatures and charging into battle singing and dancing is as fun as ever. Given the anticlimactic conclusion of the first game, the Patapon haven't given up on their obsession of traveling to Earthend to gaze upon the mystical and wondrous nature of "IT." Leaving the safety and comforts of home, they build a large ship, sail out to sea, and are sunk by a giant sea creature. Washing up on a new island, the remaining shipwrecked Patapon once again seek your divine, rhythmic guidance as they regroup, rebuild, and pursue the elusive "IT" at the earth's end. Their journey puts them in the path of many new foes, obstacles, and unique environments. With more than 80 missions, the realm in Patapon 2 is huge in comparison to the first game, but its sizeable girth and ample play time is only part of the appeal.
With your growing, hand-picked Patapon force at your beck and call, you'll guide them in battling their way across many different side-scrolling levels filled with fortifications, strange creatures, adversaries aplenty, and unique items to collect. As before, the call and response rhythm gameplay has you issuing commanding your diminutive troops to march forward, attack, defend, fall back, and engage in other strategic actions to best your opponents. Cleverly, this is all done by tapping out different combinations of the circle, square, triangle, and X buttons in a steady 4-4 time signature along to the catchy background music. The idea is to keep up a steady string of alternating commands without losing the beat and stir your cheerful warriors into a battle frenzy that improves their fighting prowess.
A few minor adjustments make Patapon 2 a little easier to digest for newcomers. An option to switch between easy, medium, and hard difficulty modes lets you scale the challenge to be more or less forgiving to suit your level of rhythmic abilities (and threshold for punishment). You no longer have to pick up the hats of Patapon who are slain on the battlefield to ensure they re-spawn in-between missions; the process is automatic. Also, instead of dropping your chain in mid-fever without warning, a new irritating-yet-handy alarm and danger indicator kicks in when you start to lose the rhythm - letting you know you better pony up on the next round of rhythm commands or face a potentially catastrophic beat meltdown. Unfortunately, one of the biggest nuisances from the first title was left intact: you still can't pause the game.
Patapon 2 features some familiar friends and foes, but there are also a slew of new, captivating bosses to conquer, beasties to hunt, challenges to face, and lands to explore. One of the best additions to your force is a new hero character that follows you into battle and lends an important helping hand. When your army is in fever mode, nailing the beat perfectly triggers your hero's special abilities - like hails of magic arrows, spinning club moves, and explosive blasts, to name a few - that can be swapped in and out between missions by equipping different masks. Heroes can also change class before missions, allowing you to equip them with various weapons and switch their roles around. They also can't be permanently defeated; they'll re-spawn on the battlefield shortly after they're slain.